June 7, 2021, Submitted by Eric Donovan & BC High
Boston College High School recently held its inaugural Shields Innovation Challenge, in which teams of students were tasked with developing innovative solutions to a problem Boston residents are facing.
The winning team was “Vert,” which came up with an idea for providing necessary nutrients to low-income communities utilizing vertical hydroponics- or farming with nutrient rich water instead of soil.
The team consisted of four students, one of those being Tyler Kwong- who is a resident of Hingham.
Utilizing vertical hydroponics, leveraging leftover food to stem food insecurity, lowering obesity rates and introducing LGBTQ+ curriculum in schools – just some of the ideas and solutions that came out of the inaugural Shields Innovation Challenge held at Boston College High School.
The Innovation Challenge was coordinated through the Shields Center for Innovation - established in 2020 through a donation of $5 million by alumnus Jack Shields ’79, founder and chairman of Shields Health Solutions. The Center is aimed at prioritizing entrepreneurial thinking while preparing for the rapidly evolving innovation economy, and entrepreneurial thinking is precisely what the Innovation Challenge brought out as teams – made up of three and four students – were tasked with creating solutions to a problem Boston residents are facing.
“An important part of our school culture is to help students look at their opportunities for growth and to try new things,” said Grace Cotter Regan, President of Boston College High School. “The Shields Innovation Challenge is an opportunity to incubate innovative thinking, and for students to work together in developing creative solutions to real-life issues.”
Winning teams were recently chosen during a presentation to a panel of expert judges including Stephen Spinelli Jr., Ph.D., president of Babson College; Raj Echambadi, Ph.D., Dunton Family Dean, D'Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University; Jane Swift, former Massachusetts Governor and President and Executive Director of LearnLaunch; and Don Gummow '13, Innovation & Operations Analyst at Brigham & Women's iHub Open Innovation Studio.
As aforementioned, the winning team was “Vert,” which came up with an idea for providing necessary nutrients to low-income communities who rely on fast food and less healthy options due to convenience and low price. The four BC High sophomores - Matthew Hurley, Tyler Kwong, Marvin Le and Nico Bezzerides - proposed using vertical hydroponics, farming with nutrient rich water instead of soil. Utilizing this method minimizes the amount of space, water, fertilizer, and pesticides needed, while also producing considerably more produce than traditional soil planting. For their winning efforts, each of the students took home $1,000.
Taking second place – and $500 each – were students from “The Healthy Food Initiative;” they proposed running a farmer’s market with leftover healthy foods from restaurants, hospitals, and grocery stores.
“We have been remarkably impressed with these student presentations,” said Shields. “They have embraced the ‘fail fast and iterate’ mentality that governs innovation. Just as importantly, the complexity and thoroughness shown in these projects demonstrated a keen awareness of the problems facing Boston residents, and that brings everything back to BC High’s Jesuit tradition – being men for others.”
About Boston College High School: Boston College High School is a Jesuit, Catholic, college-preparatory school for young men in grades 7 to 12. Founded in 1863, the school enrolls approximately 1,400 students from more than 140 communities in Eastern Massachusetts. For more information, please visit bchigh.edu.